Popular UFC lightweight contender Paul “The Irish Dragon” Felder is the last fighter to defeat UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira, but it doesn’t appear the 36-year-old 155-pound star will get the chance to do it again. Felder announced during the ESPN+ telecast of UFC Vegas 27 on Saturday that he was officially retiring from MMA.
Felder said, “I’m officially stepping down because it’s not right to hold up a division. I wish more people would do this.”
Felder was calling the action in his role as a UFC commentator. You can watch his entire speech from the ESPN+ desk below.
Felder (17-6) competed in the UFC from 2014 to 2021. His notable wins inlcude Edson Barboza, James Vick, and Oliveira.
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Felder Lost Last Two Fights
Felder hasn’t competed in the Octagon since losing by decision to former champ Rafael dos Anjos in a short-notice contest in November 2020.
That loss made it two straight for Felder. He also lost to Dan Hooker nine months prior in a blistering throwdown that left both fighters a bloody mess.
After that fight, Felder toyed with the idea of retiring but eventually said he wasn’t so sure it was the path he wanted to take. Now, the UFC star has officially announced his plan to retire from MMA.
Felder explained how his decision to retire came to be.
“It’s been really since February when I fought Dan Hooker down in New Zealand, I got the fire back a little bit when I fought RDA on five days’ notice. I thought it was back,” Hooker said.
But whatever fire he thought he had found that came along with facing “RDA” didn’t stay with him long. Felder said he came to the realization that he just doesn’t want to fight anymore.
“Ever since then, I’ve spent most of my days swimming, biking and running, and enjoying commentary, enjoying my time with my family, and I feel like it’s got to a point where it’s just like I don’t have that burning desire to fight on for many more years to become the champion,” Felder said.
So Felder said his retirement is a way to honor his belief about how pro fighters should manage this important decision.
“I’ve always said that if I don’t see that title picture in the next year or so in my future, that I would retire, and I would do it for my friends, my family and myself, to save myself,” Felder said.
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Felder on Health and UFC Career
Felder has been in some serious wars inside the UFC’s Octagon, but the lightweight star believes he’ll still able to walk away from the sport with his health.
“I’m  years old. I feel fresh. I love the UFC with all my heart for everything they’ve given me, for every opportunity I’ve ever had, to be sitting here at this desk, to be working on television is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m going to keep doing this, and I’m retiring officially from the sport of mixed martial arts and the UFC,” Felder said.
Felder expressed joy about his UFC career. He never challenged for the UFC lightweight championship but he’s been one of the top contenders in the sport. He’s also among the most popular.
“I got as high as No. 6 in the world, got pretty damn close to fighting for that belt. I’ve fought some of the baddest dudes in this division. I want to think all of them as well…,” Felder said.
Felder Apologizes for Holding Up Division
But Felder believes it’s time for him to walk away from the sport, and he wishes more fighters would do the same, especially whenever it’s best for both themselves and the sport as a whole.
He even apologized to the fighters currently ranked below him in the UFC’s official rankings right now for keeping his slot filled.
Felder is currently ranked No. 9.
“I want to say, ‘my apologies for holding up the division’ to all the guys behind me and all the young guns out there who are…chomping at the bit to get those fights, to fight me, to be able to get to the belt. Well, I’m officially stepping down because it’s not right to hold up a division. I wish more people would do this. When it’s time, it’s time,” Felder said.
Don’t expect “The Irish Dragon” to change his mind. He’s set his course, and he’ll follow it.
“I feel it. I trust in it. I’m confident in it. Yeah, that’s it for me,” Felder said.
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